Monday, September 20, 2004

Interview with Anna DeKok

Originally uploaded by becklerg.

Wow! That weather was insane and so exciting. Michael and I were driving on T st. during the hail storm and I really thought it might break my windshield. My block was flooded and I had to wade in water that was over my shoes to get in the house. We saw three little kids playing in the hail like it was snow. Maybe this storm will blow away the flies. Has anyone else noticed Sac's fly infestation the last month or two? It's really repulsive and I have this to say to Naked Lounge: take care of your fly problem. When there is a fly buzzing inside the sugar container, it's gone too far. And I don't even want to think about those scones and muffins that sit out all day.

So now to get to what is one everyones minds, the wedding. Ooh what an awkward sentence. Anyway, it was spectacular, heartwarming, heckafun, etc., etc. and I will be posting pictures from it tomorrow, barring disaster (meaning: too much work in the lab).

Now, for an interview with Anna. I have known Anna for many years and she is a real firecracker. Lovely, hilarious, enthusiastic, kind, and such a dancer! She followed her dream and moved to New York, where she ended up studying food at Hunter College and working for the prestigious (and scandal-ridden!) James Beard foundation. This charity holds the Oscars of the food world. She recently moved back to Sac with her husband, Eric, and together they are working hard to make Sac a better place for all. Here goes:

Where were you born?
In Sac.

What neighborhood did you grow up in?
East Sac. The thrifty part of the 40s.

What high school did you go to?
Sac High.

How was your high school experience?
I loved it. I didn;t feel like it was too cliquey. For example, Grace, DP, Alicia and I were buddies with the football quarterback and we weren;t sporty at all.

Where have you lived besides Sacramento?
Berkeley for 6 months, suburban Southern California for 2 years and Brooklyn for 5 years.

Why did you move to NY?
I'd wanted to live there since I was a little girl. My influences were Sesame Street, the Bloodhound gang and this book called The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. That book is about two kids running away from home and living in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Plus, as I got older, it seemed like a lot of pop culture I was interested in was connected to NYC, like Woody Allen and Paul Simon.

Why did you move back to Sacramento?
Since 9/11 and my wedding happened in the same month, it was very motivating for me to want to be back here. It was like I was settling down in getting married, but I didn't feel secure or like NY was home. Also it made me reevaluate why I was in NY and not in Sac. It seemed like my reasons were somewhat shallow, because somehow living in NY gives you the illusion that you are cool and important. For the three years before returning, we didn't want to be anywhere else but Sac though, it wasn't like a, "Let' move to the Bay Area."I began to appreciate the character of Sac and its mellow pace.

Do you miss NY?
So far I haven' really missed NY yet. Of course I miss the friends we made.

Describe the restaurant/store you would like to open in Sac (I' not sure if your current plans include both or just one)
I really love cheese stores where you buy according to the weight and they wrap it for you on the spot. I like that you could sample the cheeses before having to make a commitment, since they can be expensive. I thought it would be neat to have a restaurant that had a small retail cheese section that would be open between lunch and dinner. As for the actual restaurant, I' still trying to sort my ideas. I' thinking a small place with 20 seats that does simple stuff for lunch and a prix fixe dinner, like for a set price, you get three courses. The menu would be small (like 2-3 choices per course) and would change weekly. It would be fun to do regional foods that aren' very common, like a stew from New Mexico or a loosemeat sandwich from Iowa. We'l see if anything actually happens, but it' fun to dream.

What do you think of the restaurant "scene"in Sac?
So far I haven't been too disappointed. I know I'm answering in the negative, but my friends seem pretty down on the restaurants here. I guess there is a complaint about the new restaurants being pretty pricey and upscale, but I am still happy about the old stuff like Amarin, Hana Tsubaki, Pho Bac and Zelda's. Also, like I think we've talked about before, sometimes it's important to leave the grid to find something exciting. In New York, people traveled all over the city to try new places, sometimes we're talking an hour on the train. Compare that with 25 minutes in the car to try a new Vietnamese restaurant in Citrus Heights.

What do you think of Randy Paragary and his empire?
I haven't eaten at a Paragary place in years so I don't know about the quality, though I do remember enjoying the food at Centro. At least with Paragary it is a local chain. Also, in New York it was pretty common for restaurateurs to have a network of restaurants, like Danny Meyer or Drew Nieporent. I know that since Sac is smaller, Paragary stands out a bit more, but there are also those folks that have 33rd Street Bistro and Riverside Clubhouse or the Ernestos people that just opened Zocalo, which is crazy busy. They may give RP a run for his money.

If you want to, tell about your encounter with Frank (is it Frank, I can't remember) Corti and why you wanted to meet him.
Darrell Corti, Frank is his father, but he is long gone. I wanted to meet him because a few years ago I was reading one of Ruth Reichl's memoirs (she is the editor-in-chief of Gourmet Magazine) where she shares about an evening of driving from Berkeley to Sacramento to have dinner with Darrell Corti and how impressive he was. I think he had some really rare balsamic vinegar and was on the phone with someone in Italy. I remember freaking out, thinking this woman who I really look up to looks up to Darrell Corti, a hometown man I never really thought about. Then I worked for the James Beard Foundation (a fancy culinary organization) and found out that he was in their "who's who of food and wine," so I wanted to meet him.

I met him by accident before your birthday. I was talking to a man in the wine department, and for some reason I didn"t think it was him. (I thought Darrell was in his seventies and more behind the scenes.) I was slightly trying to show off that I knew something about wine, so I asked him about Hungarian wines and he blew me away with his knowledge. He showed me several different types he had, some under lock and key. When he was finished, I was like "Oh crap, I think that was Darrell."I asked a checker who he was, and sure enough.

Have you eaten at Bibas? Does it live up to the hype?
Nope, haven"t eaten there.

Favorite restaurants?
I don"t have one yet. Right now, I am pretty happy about a new lunch place on K Street called Ambrosia. I"ve eaten at Aioli a couple times and its pretty good.

What do you think about the arena issue?
I think if it were downtown, the place would be enveloped by chain restaurants and shops for sure and the area would lose any regional character. If it is "necessary" for a new one to be built, I think the city could contribute some funds, but not like $100 mil or more.

How has Sac changed in the time you were living in NY? Both positively and negatively?
Positively, meeting people that are happy here and want to do creative things here. I also like the ethnic diversity. Maybe it hasn't changed, but I just didn't notice before. Also, the amounts of events going on, like cultural events on weekends and Second Saturday.

Negatively, K Street. What happened? Where did all the shops go? The whole CineArts proposal happened when we were still in NYC and we were reading about how economically-depressed K Street is but I assumed they were exaggerating. I just walked down it for the first time in years last weekend and was blown away.
Also, housing prices, totally depressing subject.

What is your dream neighborhood in Sac?
Curtis Park or the part of East Sac near Coffee Works and 33rd Street Bistro.

Do you think you will ever move?
No, unless my health can"t take it, I have asthma.

Favorite local celebrity or celebrity sighting?
Besides D. Corti, Jack Gallager. Is he still around? In the eighties, I went to a couple of tapings of TV Lite and thought it was cool that they had that show in Sac.

Predictions for the Kings this year?
They are going to do it this year. And I will finally be able to be here for it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cheese shops are important.

p.s. did you interview pauly?